It’s been a tough couple of years for the Hobart Hurricanes in the WBBL.
After finishing in the top four and competing in the finals in WBBL01 and WBBL02, the highest the Hurricanes have finished is seventh.
It’s certainly not due to a lack of talent. During those seasons, players like Heather Knight, Corinne Hall, Tayla Vlaeminck and Nic Carey have all worn the purple of the Hurricanes, but there have been questions asked about experience and leadership and the squad’s ability to close tight games.
That’s where a player like Rachel Priest comes in.
Priest joined the Hurricanes from the Sydney Thunder this year and is hoping that as a New Zealand international and one of the more experienced players in the squad, she can help provide some of that leadership.
“The only thing I want to do this year is contribute to the team in a positive way, whether that be on the field or off the field,” said Priest.
“Especially helping out with the leadership of the team and passing experience and knowledge on.”
Priest has a unique opportunity to contribute to the leadership of the squad given her role as opening batter and wicketkeeper.
“With the keeping motivation and support is a big part of my role and I take that pretty seriously,” said Priest.
“With the batting, trying to set the tone for the innings and getting us off to a good start. It was really disappointing not to do that for the first few games, but I have some runs now so it is good to contribute.”
The Hurricanes did have a tough start to this season. Two out of their first four games were abandoned due to rain. They lost the other two. Then came an important win against the Melbourne Renegades followed by two very narrow losses to competition heavy weights the Sydney Thunder and Sydney Sixers.
For Priest, while those losses were disappointing, they demonstrated that the Hurricanes can compete with the top teams in the competition.
“We haven’t shown it that well yet this season, but we have a pretty good batting line-up and if it comes together, we can beat any team as we showed last week,” said Priest.
“We should have beaten the Sixers and the Thunder who are two of the top teams.
“It has been a problem for this team in the past, just not finding a way to get across the line. That is something we are working towards and I think we are getting really close.”
One of the focuses for the Hurricanes has been energy during their fielding innings. In their first two games, given that the Hurricanes fielded second and were defending a low total, there was a lack of energy in the field.
“That’s something we have spoken about as a group,” said Priest.
“It is only 20 overs we have to be out there with energy, and we are really lucky to be playing cricket.”
That energy becomes easier to muster when you have a player like Belinda Vakarewa leading the bowling group. Vakarewa had a breakout year in WBBL05, taking 20 wickets at an average of 15.80.
These were the third best figures in the competition and Vakarewa was rewarded. She was named the WBBL05 player of the year for the Hurricanes.
That form has continued into WBBL06. Vakarewa has already taken six wickets at an average of 6.16 with best figures of 2/12. Many of those wickets came in her first over.
“That’s what we ask of her,” said Priest.
“We ask her to come in at the start and set the tone for our bowling and batting innings and that’s what she is doing.
“We have asked a lot of her at the start of games but can also ask a hell of a lot of her at the back of games.
“We aren’t making it easy for her. She has a big role for us, but she is going so well and I’m so pleased because she is a great person and a great teammate.”
Despite the Hurricanes’ position on the ladder, fortunately there is still plenty of cricket to be played. With six matches remaining, the Hurricanes are still able to make the finals.
For Priest, that journey to a finals spot begins with the Hurricanes’ next game against the Sydney Sixers on Saturday.
“I don’t think we need to change too much, given how close we came last time we played them,” said Priest.
“We know we have good players, so we will speak about our plans before the game and see what tweaks need to be made.
“We want to put in an all-round performance and get across the line. That would give our team real confidence heading into the rest of the season.
“We are still up and about, and we feel like we have a chance.”